FAMU Striking to Zero HIV Infection seminar, an event that took place this week during the annual World Aids Day Week 2012, proved to be a learning experience for all in attendance.
Students were educated on the increasing epidemic of HIV/Aids, in which over 34 million people are currently infected with the virus. In that number, 3.3 million are under the age of 15. Dr. Maria Okeke, professor of health sciences, informed students that the epidemic is getting more worse than when it first came out and how important it is to educate each other, as well as, bring awareness to the community.
“We’re striving to reach zero status on HIV,” Okeke said. “Know your status and most of all protect yourself.”
Wallace Ward, an outreach liaison at the Bond Community Health Center, hosted the seminar. Ward briefed the rundown of the program that consisted of a skit on the origin of HIV by environmental health students, a question and answer period, and closing remarks by Dr. Okeke and Sheila Morris, a professor of health sciences. He also introduced the panel of speakers- Dr. Melvena Wilson, an adjunct professor in Allied Health, Victer Muhammad, an engineer for biomedical research, Samuel Carter, a contract manager and early intervention consultant for Leon county, and Dr. Emmanuel Inwang, a pharmacist. The panel discussed various topics of safe sex, history of the virus, statistics, and the lack of knowledge and concern for HIV/Aids.
“We’ve gotta change our attitude about the way we deal with HIV and sex,” said Carter, who was very frustrated about the lackadaisical attitude people have towards these issues. “Aids is acquired. That means you have to do something to contract it.”
Wilson shared Carter’s same frustration as she told men and women to have respect for their bodies and know their partners. She informed students about the proper wear of a condom, how to apply it, and what to look for before applying it.
Junior Attendant, Alyssa Crawford, a pre-nursing student from Ft. Lauderdale was among the people at the seminar. Crawford, who’s been an activist for two years, was born with HIV. She was very appreciative of the turn out as explained the importance of young people coming out to events such as this.
“People are blinded by it by stereotypes and stigma,” said Crawford as she explained why she came out with her status.
Attendee, Thomas Dozier, an Outreach Worker at MAACA in the Bond Community Center, is HIV positive as well. He contracted the virus from his brother in 1986 by sharing a needle. Dozier is passionate about pushing the awareness of HIV in the community.
“I want people to feel urgency,” Dozier said. “It’s still around. You can still get it.”